Monday, January 16, 2012
Book Notes: January 8-14 (B)
Scott Miller's The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century is a skillfully-woven tale that, indeed, incorporates the threads of socialist/anarchist terrorism, the burgeoning American imperialism, and the presidency and assassination of William McKinley at the turn to the 20th century -- or, as Miller terms it, "the dawn of the American century."
All in all, I am more glad to have read the book than I was ever glad during the reading of the book. The whole Spanish-American War was depressing, and the anarchists at home and abroad who fulminated so obnoxiously against decency, morality, and civilization were disgusting. But, the history is sound, and I now know more than I ever thought I would about the birth of American empire and the utter contemptibility of Emma Goldman, Albert Parsons, et al.
I could go on and on about how much I hated the anarchists, but maybe some other time in some other post. I just saw the anarchist symbol spray painted on the stone address marker of a house on our street last week, and that, combined with my already hostile view of all graffiti and people who constantly bitch, made me not in the least charitably inclined toward those vile turn-of-the-century malcontents while reading The President and the Assassin.
A completely satisfying book, overall; having read it, I came away thinking that I've gotten as good a grip on the events and personalities that led to the assassination of a decent man and an earnest president as ever I'll find in a single volume. Now, I have read books on every presidential assassination except for John F. Kennedy's. And, somehow, his -- the most controversial and conspiracy-theory laden of all -- is the one least interesting to me.